Social media in SEO


Marianne Bentzen

Technical SEO

Most people know – at least those of us who work in online marketing – that SEO and Social Media are very much connected to one another. The better you understand this relationship the better you can develop and focus on those activities which make greater online results for your business.

I have decided to divide this blog post into two parts in order for you to get a bigger picture on how social media affects SEO. All comments are welcome as we all want to learn from different views and experiences.

The relationship between Social Media and SEO

Social media and SEO are linked. They both affect each other which is why you need to do customer centred keyword research, create consumer centric content and then make people around the globe aware of your content through social media.

When writing social media content, for example a blog, it is important to follow some simple rules which also apply to websites in terms of SEO:

– In order to increase relevance to specific keywords you need to regularly edit your content.

– Remember to optimise your media content; inc. images, videos etc.

– Remove probable barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

– When mentioned in social media make sure you obtain backlinks and inbound links to your website.

– Link back to your website when you are talking about relevant content on other sites.

– Use rich and varied anchor text (your keywords).

– Use social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and Digg to create influential and natural inbound links.

– Create social media assets (Facebook, Twitter, blog, YouTube) along with your website to ensure that these sites are taking up space on the first page when people are searching for your company’s keywords.

– Make sure people can “tweet”, “retweet”, “Like”, “+1” etc. content on your website.

– Create mutual engagement by following others on Twitter, retweeting and @ replying them.

How social media affects content relevance in search

Personalised results are now given much greater emphasis on Google and other search engines than before. Social content such as blog posts and Google+ postings are much more prominent on Google SERPs.

This example shows how traditional search results are being de-emphasised in Google’s SERPs complexity:

Organic Search Results with Google+ Integrated Listings

What affects search results in Google’s ranking are social shares like Google +1’s, Tweets, Likes etc., whereas the display visibility is impacted by social media content AND shares (as you can see above, the Google+ account appears on the right side and affects your search results). Therefore, user behaviour and preferences are critical when you chose your SEO strategy. This is because the display strategy depends on if the user has a Google account (and is logged in) and whether they are active in social media networks. If your target market is not actively using social media and does not have a Google account, traditional search results would be the most important form of result for your target market.

One of my favourite social media tools is called Twitterfall – it is a pretty good tool to help you search Twitter in real time. A great feature is that you can use it in different languages which is pretty handy if you are working with multilingual SEO.

Here you can search for a specific keyword and after a few seconds a list of people tweeting about your keyword will appear. This is worth doing if you want to find influencers and also want to know what people are saying about the specific topic you are interested in.

Twitter Tools

Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land explained SEO in social media like this:

“The links you build through social media, the references, the authority – all can have an impact in various ways on how you are ranked and listed to even in ‘regular’ search results. Social media allows for people to provide more trusted signals”.

This is also the case with Bing’s search engine. A Microsoft spokesperson for Bing said:

“As ideas, thought, questions and answers are shared more freely and easily than ever, the increased amount of information from social sources provides great benefits to users.”

As explained, popular content shared amongst your friends on Facebook, as well as popular topics on Facebook in general are more likely to appear in Bing’s search results.

Google introduced the +1 button as an answer to the Bing-Facebook deal so it now seems to be a social fight between the rivals. But will these search results actually benefit us consumers? Will we end up with the best search results if the search engines constantly keep in mind our social behaviour? I guess it is beneficial in some ways as they are aware of our interests. Personally I think it would also in some cases be nice to get a feel of “anonymity” where the search engines don’t know everything about you, which I think most people would agree upon. However, it is said that in the future Google will most likely start giving equal weight to both ranking and display optimisation where the SERPs will end up being subjective (content which is favoured by people in your social networks) and objective (content that is ranked according to Google’s traditional algorithm) to your search results.

It is crucial to human success that industries know what we like – which is what the search engines have taken to heart. If people share your content, other readers are more likely to listen to you and view your content too – this is because they trust that the recommendations it has received implies it is good quality, reader friendly and interesting content!